White Wine Varietals
Originating from Burgundy, France Chardonnay is one of the most popular wine varietals in America. Some of the best American Chardonnays come from Washington State and California. Other Southwest wine regions producing Chardonnay include Texas, Oregon and Arizona. This white wine is dry with rich flavor and overtones of citrus. Chardonnays have traditionally been aged in oak where they become creamy and buttery with spice, vanilla and oak flavors. In more recent years, Southwest Chardonnays have also been aged in little to no oak, producing a more crisp and fresh flavor.
Chardonnay pairs well with poultry and fish. Also try pairing un-oaked Chardonnay with such dishes as grilled shrimp or guacamole.
- Cenin Blanc
Originally produced in France’s Loire Valley, this grape is also grown with much success in California. This white wine can range from dry to very sweet producing flavors that vary from apple, melon, lime and pear with hints of vanilla and honey.
Chenin Blanc pairs well with seafood, poultry and pork. It also is a nice accompaniment to salads.
This white grape is grown in the United States in particular in the west including California, New Mexico and Washington State where the flavors tend to be semi-sweet to sweet in style. Gewurztraminer means “spice” in German and can have a peppery, nutty or floral character and is generally best if enjoyed soon after bottling.
Gewurztraminer pairs well with Asian dishes or barbeque types of food.
Malvasia grapes are planted in Italy and in other climates where there is good sun exposure and soil drainage. New Mexico and Arizona wineries have begun to produce Malvasia. This wine should be consumed soon after bottling. This wine varietal has aromas of pears and spice with fresh fruity flavors. In some cases, Malvasia is also used to make very rich flavored dessert wines by drying the grapes before crushing. This method allows the sugars and flavors to be concentrated as the water in the grapes evaporates.
Malvasia pairs well with cheese and fruit.
Muscat grapes are grown in temperate climates including California and New Mexico. Muscat is noted for their musky grape flavor and is often used for sparkling wines. Muscat is generally not paired with food.
- Pinot Grigio/Pinot Gris
In Italy, California, New Mexico and Arizona it is known as Pinot Grigio. In Oregon and France, it is known as Pinot Gris. This white wine is closely related to Pinot Noir which is a red grape. Most Pinot Grigio is dry with fruit flavors of pear and apple and hints of lemon.
This white wine varietal pairs nicely with pasta and tomato sauce dishes, roasted poultry or pork or as a refreshing cocktail wine with nut and fruit appetizers.
Riesling wines are much lighter than Chardonnay wines. The aromas generally include peach, apricot, apples and honey flavors. The Riesling variety expresses itself very differently depending on the district and the winemaking. The classic German grape of the Rhine and Mosel, Riesling grows in all wine regions. Washington State and Oregon offer some of the best American Rieslings as well as some California and New Mexico vineyards.
Riesling pairs well with fish, poultry and pork.
- Sauvignon Blanc
A nice alternative to Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc is usually a dry, light, crisp white wine with herbal, olive and soft smoky flavors. Sauvignon Blanc originated in the Loire Valley of France. This wine is widely available as a single varietal or as a blend with Semillon. Many regions of the United States produce excellent Sauvignon Blanc wine including California, New Mexico and Arizona.
Sauvignon Blanc is a very food-friendly wine and is a good choice for appetizers or salads. It also pairs well with pork, seafood and poultry.
This grape is often blended with Sauvignon Blanc and is also the primary grape used in White Bordeaux wines. Semillon grapes are grown in many regions throughout the world including Washington State, California, Oregon and Texas. Semillon marries well with oak and can produce wines that have good character but may lack aroma. However, when combined with the Sauvignon Blanc grape, the result is a pleasant, berry-like flavor.
Semillon pairs well with dessert or light dishes such as shellfish and pasta salads.
Viognier is a white grape that originated in northern Rhone. The grape produces wine varietals with peachy, apricot and wood aromas and has recently become a popular wine. The grape is grown in areas of the United States such as California, New Mexico and Washington State. Viognier is a close cousin to Gewurztraminer and is very aromatic.
This wine should be consumed soon after bottling and pairs well with light appetizers, bread and soft cheeses
Red Wine Varietals
- Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon is often referred to as the king of the red wine grapes. It flourishes in the Bordeaux region and grows extremely well in regions of California. Other Southwest regions where Cabs are produced are New Mexico and Arizona. Cabs can range from medium-bodied to full-bodied with appealing fruit tones such as black currant, cassis, cherry, cedar and spice.
This popular wine varietal pairs well with red meats, hearty pasta dishes in red sauces, lamb, hard cheeses and dark chocolates.
Merlot is an easy to drink wine and is often one of the first wines that newcomers to wine taste. The Merlot grape originated from the Bordeaux region of France but is now produced in many Southwest areas of the United States including Arizona, California and New Mexico. Merlot produces fresh fruit flavors including plums, cherries and blueberries.
There are often overtones of black pepper providing a smooth, soft medium-bodied wine. Merlot can easily be paired with red meat, pork, pastas, salads and poultry.
- Petite Sirah/Petite Syrah
Although often confused with Syrah/Shiraz, Petite Sirah is a cousin of that particular grape and produces a deep red, peppery and full-bodied wine. The name “petite” does not refer to the size of the vines but to the size of the grapes. Grown primarily in California, for many years Petite Sirah was used mostly as a blending grape with other wine varietals such as Zinfandel to produce a more robust wine varietal. More recently it has been bottled on its own as a single varietal wine.
Petite Sirah pairs well with red meats such as prime rib, steaks and roasts.
- Pinot Noir
The Pinot Noir grape produces a red wine that is lighter in color in comparison to other reds. It is the premier red wine grape of the Burgundy region of France but is now planted in the United States in Southwest areas such as California, Oregon and New Mexico. The Pinot Noir grape is one of the more difficult grapes to grow but well worth the effort. Flavors can be delicately spicy with hints of smoke, red berries, plums and cherries.
Pinot Noir pairs well with grilled seafood, poultry, creamy sauces, pork and lamb.
Sangiovese is primarily a red wine grape grown in the Italian region of Tuscany. It is used to make other reds such as Chianti. Because of the appealing level of acidity, wine varietals that are Sangiovese-based pair well with many foods. Sangiovese is also planted in the United States in Southwest areas such as Washington State and California. Sangiovesewine is medium-bodied with hints of cherries, raisins and plum flavors.
This wine pairs well with Italian dishes and red meat, chicken, pastas or aged cheese.
In France, California and other Southwest areas of the United States such as Arizona, the grape is known as Syrah; in Australia it is known as Shiraz. This wine varietal has been grown in the Rhone regions of France for centuries. Although Syrah is frequently used as a blend with Cabernet Sauvignon, it holds its own by itself.
This varietal has flavors of spices, berries and a hint of black pepper. Syrah is easily paired with red meat or game.
Tempranillo grapes are grown primarily in the Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions of Spain. In the United States, areas of the Southwest such as Oregon, Washington State, Arizona and California are finding that this versatile grape produces excellent wines. The flavors of Tempranillo wines include plum, cherry and strawberry mixed with a hint of leather and spice.
This wine pairs extremely well with a variety of foods including pork, tapas or grilled meats.
Described as an American grape, the Zinfandel grape has been part of California wine making since the 19th century. Other areas of the Southwest United States such as New Mexico and Arizona are using the Zinfandel grape to make award winning wine wine varietals. Zinfandel is rich and dark and features flavors such as blackberry, cherry and black pepper.
Zinfandel is a versatile grape used also in blush wines such as White Zinfandel. Zinfandel pairs well with red or white meat, pasta, Cajun spice foods or hamburgers.
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